JET Programme: Experiences
The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme 2019 application period will start in October for those wishing to work in Japan as Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) or Coordinator for International Affairs (CIR). Currrent CIR Ching Yin Cleo Wong is our latest "JET Experiences" contributer. Based in Shimane Prefecture she writes about her experiences on the JET Programme below.
Ching Yin Cleo Wong
CIR Nishinoshima, Shimane Prefecture 2016 - Present
I was working as a secretary and administrative officer at a Hong Kong-based Japanese company when I found myself at a stand-still. Having studied in both Hong Kong and United Kingdom, I went from earning my B.A. in Japanese Studies directly into a full time job. I was ready for a change! It was while looking for this change that I came across the JET Programme. A friend living in Ehime prefecture had been posting photos on social media of her life as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR). Amazed at what I saw, I decided that I wanted to follow her example and become a CIR through the JET Programme.
I can still remember how excited I was when I learned that I was shortlisted! Even then, I had only planned on staying for one or two years. I am starting my third year now, and I can safely say life in Japan is more challenging and more fulfilling than that I could have ever imagined. Starting out as the CIR with the Nishinoshima Board of Education in Shimane Prefecture, my main role was to organise English speaking classes (Eikaiwa) and cultural activities. I also visited preschools and primary school on a regular basis to teach the students about cultures of other countries and to play English games. Compared to my CIR colleagues on the mainland, I have fewer interpretation and translation opportunities, as my efforts are mainly focused on education. However, I was given the freedom to plan and organise my own educational events and activities, especially to promote the United Kingdom.
Coming from a bustling cosmopolitan city that never sleeps, it was hard at first to adjust my working style into the more relaxed, unfamiliar island-lifestyle. But it was a challenge unique to my situation, and one that I was more than willing to face. Adapting to the lifestyle wasn’t the only challenge I faced in my first few months. Assisting my office in organising the annual International Christmas Party, as well as the annual Nishinoshima Half Marathon proved to be intriguing events to take on. Apart from working with my team, I also wrote articles for the town’s monthly newsletter, and started a CIR social media page. Since Nishinoshima Island is a member of the Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark, there are plenty of amazing photo opportunities to share on social media and encourage our thriving tourism industry. Working for a UNESCO-designated geopark, I also interpret and translate documents for the geopark’s promotion committee and act as an assistant instructor at the annual Geopark English Camp.
My second year as a CIR has given me the opportunity to work more with tourism and the geopark than I ever expected as I was assigned to the Tourism and Residency Division. With more translation and interpretation opportunities, there are new things to learn and challenges to face.
Other than the official work duties, there is much more to the JET experience! Nishinoshima Island is a part of the Oki Islands, where there are many other JET participants from all over the world. We sometimes visit each other on our different islands, and join the local festivals together. The most memorable festival was the New Year’s Ritual, where I was invited by one of the Shinto priests on the island to help prepare and cook for the event at Takuhi Shrine. Takuhi Shrine is located about three quarters of the way up a 452m high mountain. Together with four other volunteers, we hiked to the shrine with our backpacks filled with mackerel fillets, rice and seaweed. The preparations, cooking and cleanup took a full day, so I was exhausted afterwards! However, being able to participate in this important event is one of my fondest memories and a milestone in my life as a Nishinoshima Islander!
Having Nishinoshima Town as my Contracting Organisation, I consider myself very lucky. I have the opportunity to live within a UNESCO Global Geopark. My colleagues and the locals have been very welcoming and friendly to me, which I am very thankful for. Going into my third year, I am looking forward to new challenges, and all the excitement that life here is sure to bring!